It looks as if California is living up to its nickname as “The Golden State” – at least in the context of immigration. While other states are passing draconian laws in an effort to crack down on illegal immigrants, California is worthy of much praise for its efforts in implementing the Dream Act.
In July, California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 130 which gave undocumented students in the state of California the ability to receive privately funded scholarships. Last week, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law AB 131 which will give 41,000 undocumented students access to $14.5 million in public funding for higher education in the state. AB 131 will give undocumented students access to surplus funds from California’s educational grant program. Therefore, the state will not be reducing any aid to documented students. Given that the Dream Act failed to generate enough support in Congress, California is taking a step in the right direction to make undocumented students cohesive members of society. California was one of the first states that allowed undocumented students who graduated from a California public high school to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Immigration advocates in California are now pushing for undocumented individuals to have access to drivers licenses.
California’s efforts to incorporate undocumented students are a stark contrast to Alabama’s new measure. Although the federal government is seeking to block Alabama’s new law which allows school officials to check the immigration status of children in public schools, the federal government faces a long and tough road ahead.
With the Morton Memo on Prosecutorial discretion, state immigration leaders should follow California’s example. Undocumented students shouldn’t face a risk of deportation and aren’t going anywhere. States must realize that only by making undocumented students productive members of society will they be able to thrive as Governor Perry of Texas so clearly pointed out in the debates much to his demise politically. States have already invested thousands of dollars in the education of undocumented students. Their ability to get a college education will allow them to contribute to the country they already consider home.
Currently it is estimated that 1.5 million undocumented students live in the United States and they have an ability to contribute to the United States. This must be cultivated, and the Dream Act should be implemented nationwide.
Danielle Beach-Oswald is the current President and Managing Partner of Beach-Oswald Immigration Law Associates in Washington, DC. Ms. Beach utilizes her 19 years of experience in immigration law to help individuals immigrate to the United States for humanitarian reasons. Born in Brussels, Belgium, Ms. Beach has lived in England, Belgium, Italy and Ivory Coast and has traveled extensively to many countries. Ms. Beach advocates for clients from around the world who seek freedom from torture in their country, or who are victims of domestic violence and trafficking. She has also represented her clients at U.S. Consulates in Romania, China, Canada, Mexico, and several African countries. With her extensive experience in family-based and employment-based immigration law Ms. Beach not only assists her clients in obtaining a better standard of living in the United States, she also helps employers obtain professional visas, and petitions for family members. She also handles many complex naturalization issues. Ms. Beach has unique expertise representing clients in immigration matters pending before the Federal District Courts, Circuit Courts, Board of Immigration Appeals and Immigration Courts. She has won over 400 humanitarian cases in the United States. Her firm's website is www.boilapc.com.